Cuba tests free mobile Internet access

Xinhua
Cubans were treated to free mobile Internet access on Wednesday as part of a pilot program by the state telecommunications company ETECSA.
Xinhua
Imaginechina

Pedestrians use their smartphones to surf the Internet in Havana, Cuba, on August 22, 2018.

Cubans were treated to free mobile Internet access on Wednesday as part of a pilot program by the state telecommunications company ETECSA.

More than 5 million prepaid cellular customers received a free 70 MB data package valid through midnight.

In a statement on its website, the company said it planned to roll out the service later this year and wanted to observe how the "data networks operate" and "adjust technical parameters."

On the streets of Havana, mobile users said they were happy about the free Internet, though some complained the connection was notably slower than usual.

ETECSA hasn't given a date for the start of the service or its costs, however it launched the service for foreign companies, embassies and journalists last year, charging a maximum of 40 U.S. dollars a month for four gigabytes of data.

A surprise pilot test earlier this month lasted five hours and saw some 800,000 people spontaneously log on, according to the company.

Currently Cuba has 1,651 public Internet access sites and 673 WiFi zones in parks, squares and other venues, according to local authorities.

In addition, 27,316 users have coveted home Internet service.

ETECSA is working to boost connectivity on the island and this year aims to install 150 new public WiFi areas and 52,500 home Internet connections. However, high service rates (a dollar an hour) are still an issue.

In the last two years, Internet access has expanded to 38.77 percent of the population, or more than 4 million Cubans.

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